The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

archives for 07/2016

Jul 2016
Dining goats

Oh the drama of farm life! Mark downplayed Aurora's illness when he posted about her earlier this week. Personally? I was convinced she'd be dead every time I trotted up to the goat barn to check on our baby goat.

Whatever it was came on overnight. When we put her in the kennel at evening milking, our doeling was spunky and happy. When I came to get her out twelve hours later, she was standing against the back wall, listless. Her head was cocked at an awkward angle and her whole body looked sore. She wasn't interested in eating and wouldn't even nurse from her mother. Bad news.


The vet guessed it might be a heavy parasite load, mostly based on Aurora's age and the fact she's a goat. To be on the safe side, he shot her up with selenium + vitamin E, vitamin B-12,  a painkiller/anti-inflammatory, and a dewormer. Then he sent her home and told us to feed her half a cup of yogurt per day until she started eating on her own.

Rushing goats

That turned out to be quite a challenge. In fact, that first day I was so terrified that I couldn't figure out how to get her to eat anything. But after a good night's sleep I remembered the big, needle-less syringes I'd bought as part of our kidding kit. Yogurt mixed with some goat milk and a bit of Nutri-drench was just thin enough to squirt down her throat if Mark restrained her and I pried open her jaws. By the dinner feeding, Aurora was starting to look a little less pained and a little more normal.

But 48 hours after her symptoms appeared, she was still in very bad shape. Proving that our goats are pets rather than livestock, we rushed Aurora back to the clinic at the vet's earliest possible convenience. This time, our doeling got an anti-coccidiosis shot, two types of injectable antibiotics, a different dewormer, more vitamin B-12, and a corticosteroid. The vet also sent us home with followup shots for the antibiotics and a big jug of amino acids/electrolytes/vitamins.

Mother goat

If you've seen me in real life avoiding doctors at all costs (except for my sweet sister...who I see in a nonprofessional capacity), you'll know I'm leery of unnecessary pharmaceuticals. But I was terrified of losing our dear doeling and was thrilled to have the vet inject Aurora with everything under the sun.

Goats on a log

To my delight, something worked. We hadn't been able to get Aurora to eat on her own or nurse for two full days, but on the way home she was already nibbling on Mark's sleeve. Six hours later, she was ready to go out and graze with her mother and bounce about on logs. The next day, we stopped squirting yogurt down her throat because Artemesia's udders proved that the doeling had drunk a pint of milk overnight.

I'd feel better if I knew for sure what had been wrong with Aurora. I think it's quite possible she was weakened by her brother's weaning --- Punkin is much more adamant than his sister, and I think she actually got more milk with him present because he was better able to pin their mother down better. (Artemesia is starting to think her kids are big enough to eat greenery and not visit the milk bar all the darn time.)

Goats in the woods

Or the vet may be right and it's my own fault for not forcing Aurora to eat her copper bolus when the rest of the herd was treated last week. I hadn't thought she was at as much risk of worms due to subsisting so much milk. But it's easy to see how intestinal parasites can explode when gut bacteria are just starting to figure out the transition from milk to grass and when kids haven't yet learned not to eat off the ground. Aurora will definitely get her copper next week once her system is back up to snuff.

I'd be curious to hear from other goatkeepers. Based on the data above (and especially the speedy bounce-back time), any ideas what was wrong with our little goat? And, for everyone else (especially Kayla and Jed), thank you so much for sending your healing wishes in Aurora's direction. It's wonderful to have you on our team.

Posted Fri Jul 1 05:52:52 2016 Tags:
Harvesting carrots

One hour to dig and two hours to top, clean, and sort.

Total yield: approximately forty pounds.
Posted Fri Jul 1 12:52:57 2016 Tags:

June applesIt occurred me to me as elf-sized Early Transparent apples kept dropping from the tree and I kept happily gnawing them up that perhaps those weren't June drops after all. Perhaps they were merely apples ripening early and small.

For the sake of comparison, I'm showing two apples of the same variety from our less-high-density dwarf tree beside one of the "June drops." The former are bigger and greener, making it more obvious that the elfin apple is actually almost a little over-ripe. (The mealy texture of the last few picked off the ground proved the same point.)

So my new conclusion is that I didn't thin the flowers on that high-density Early Transparent enough. It probably could have used some manure too, but the neighboring high-density Red Empire is bulking up its (fewer) fruits much more gamely, pointing to a variety-specific thinning problem.

Next year, I'll thin harder. But this year, I'm enjoying eating my mistakes.

Posted Sat Jul 2 07:34:55 2016 Tags:
monorack with pallet car

We finally figured out a price structure for a farm monorail system.

The cost of 920 feet of track which includes the support structures with a tractor car and one pallet car was going to be 60,000 before shipping.

It's way out of our price range so we are going back to the drawing board for some new ideas.

Posted Sat Jul 2 16:12:34 2016 Tags:
Four sunflowers

There's nothing like big, yellow sunflower heads to prove that it's truly summer. Corn is tassling, the first slicer tomato will soon be ripening, and okra flowers are budding. We're eating green beans, summer squash, tommy-toe tomatoes, Swiss chard, and the last of the lettuce while waiting on the harvest deluge to hit.

Posted Sun Jul 3 06:25:50 2016 Tags:
Disease resistant grape

We're currently growing three varieties of seedless grapes.

Himrod isn't quite old enough to fruit. Mars Seedless sets fruits heavily...then loses them to blights.

So far, Reliance appears to live up to its name. We'll report back again in a couple of months when the fruits ripen up.

Posted Sun Jul 3 13:09:54 2016 Tags:
Pepper plants
"How do you tell you need more 'off farm fertility'? Plants yellow? Low nitrogen?" --- John

Lack of nitrogen is generally the early warning sign. Since I've been trying to use only on-farm compost and manure this spring, I ended up with a few low-nitrogen spots that required topdressing.

I wish I'd taken a picture of the peppers above before their dosing so you could see the difference a thin layer of chicken-manure bedding between the rows created. The leaves were slightly yellow at that time, but mostly the plants just weren't growing the way they ought.

Ripening pepperI wasn't really surprised by the problem because I'd treated the bed to the last of our garden compost pile, which is much lower in nitrogen than composted manure. Then I'd laid down a weed-control layer of newspaper (high carbon) and weighed that down with a thin layer of homegrown rye tops (also high carbon).

Luckily, garden plants are resilient beings. A week after getting their extra nitrogen dose, the plants greened up and started growing. A week after that, we had our first ripe lunchbox pepper.
Definitely worth feeding the soil a little more so the soil will then feed us!

Posted Mon Jul 4 06:36:02 2016 Tags:
6 wheel UTV

Thank you Roland for the driveway number crunching.

One of the outside the box alternatives to a monorail is a 6 wheeler.

The basic model is around 10k.

Not sure if it would do too much damage. More research is needed.

Posted Mon Jul 4 15:00:23 2016 Tags:
Miniature doeling

The only residual ill effects from last week's goat scare appears to be some newfound skittishness on our doeling's part. Not that I blame her. After all, if someone pushed a syringe down your throat six or seven times whenever they picked you up, jabbing you in the shoulder now and then for good measure, you'd probably be a bit gunshy too.

Swamp goats

Actually, Aurora is just fine as long as I'm walking or sitting down. But if I stand too close to her, she has a tendency to run away.

Grazing goats

Which wouldn't be a problem if Artemesia and I hadn't developed a fondness for grazing on the other side of the creek. (Okay, she grazes while I soak in the deep hole, letting the minnows nibble on my feet.)

The other side of the creek

The trouble is, our doe has learned how to cross on the stepping stones, but our doeling has not. Back before Aurora got sick and Punkin got put in weaning time out, I'd just grab a kid under each arm and carry them across. But nowadays I have to sit beside the water and pretend to be reading to tempt our doeling to come close enough to be grabbed.

Lounging goat

To my relief, while I soaked in the creek and pondered the problem Monday, Aurora figured out the stepping stones. "Now you have no reason to pick me up!" our little princess proclaimed. "Let us all eat grass!"

Posted Tue Jul 5 07:00:30 2016 Tags:
hovercraft diy

This DIY hovercraft was made by one of the Myth Buster guys back in 2012.

He made it for his kid, but I was thinking if it would hold a kid it might hold some 5 gallon buckets loaded with horse manure.

Maybe make it bigger with a few more leaf blowers and it could be pulled like a wagon across the swamp and back to the garden.

Posted Tue Jul 5 15:39:34 2016 Tags:
King David apple

"Signs of [apple ripeness] include dropped apples, seeds turning brown or black, the green on the apple turning yellowish, and (most importantly) the apples tasting ripe." --- me, in this post

When I wrote that guidelines three years ago during our last apple-friendly season, I missed one very important point --- time of year. I picked the above King David apple this weekend in part Zinnia with butterflybecause the limb was bending down to the ground under its weight, but also because this particular fruit just looked ripe. Cutting the fruit open,  though, I discovered that the seeds were still white and the flesh was dense and tart. (Which isn't to say I didn't eat it anyway!)

I could have saved myself the imperfect apple, though, had I done a quick google search. Turns out King Davids are very late-season apples and aren't supposed to ripen until October. Oops. Hopefully I'll be able to hold off on plucking the other fruits until the fall.

Posted Wed Jul 6 06:48:16 2016 Tags:
over wintering Brussels sprouts

We decided to give our over Wintered brussels sprout to Artemesia.

They just didn't look good enough to cook.

Posted Wed Jul 6 15:35:08 2016 Tags:
Wild blackberries

It's been an excellent year for wild blackberries. I accidentally let a huge patch grow up in the one part of our core homestead that we haven't managed to reclaim (and which will probably be turned into goat pasture eventually). The soil is quite fertile there, but it's bad for gardening because the spot is simply too shady for most vegetables. Blackberries, though, don't seem to mind.

While tromping through the thorns picking dessert, I also stumbled across the same grape vine I've been noticing then forgetting about for the last ten years. It was growing on the west Grape vineside of the old house and soon disappeared into the weeds when the house came down.

Based on the leaf shape, my gut feeling was that the grape was a cultivated variety. But I wasn't positive until I found fruits nearly an inch in diameter hidden amid the briars last week. Here's hoping I can remember to hunt them back down in a month or so when they're ripe...and maybe take a cutting since this variety definitely seems to shrug off everything from blights to beetles to weeds while still producing a crop.

(No picture of the grapes themselves --- sorry! I didn't have the camera when I found them and didn't want to wade back in there once I was suitably equipped. But I think these leaves came from the same plant....maybe.)

Posted Thu Jul 7 06:51:33 2016 Tags:
Anna mulching field corn

The field corn is mature enough to be thinned out this week.

Anna gives the deleted stalks which have no corn to Artemesia.

Posted Thu Jul 7 15:44:54 2016 Tags:
Butternut patch

It's been such a hot summer that a week of rainy mornings is a bit of a relief. It takes more oomph to get myself to go outside in the drizzle, but then I end up reveling in the gentle drip of rain on leaves.

Rainy gardening

Those of you who till have to be more careful of entering your garden in the wet. Even your footsteps can compress soil that might be earmarked to grow next year's corn. But with permanent aisles and no soil-movement in sight, a rainy day is a perfect time for no-till garden cleanup.


This week, I planted fall carrots, renovated some strawberry beds, and weeded and topdressed about half of our asparagus. There's something joyful about knowing I'm working on plants that will feed us in 2017.


Meanwhile, Mark mowed and weedate like crazy. Both his and my battles with the weeds are still a draw, but I have a good feeling that we'll win in the end. And on a rainy morning like this, we certainly have fun doing it!

Posted Fri Jul 8 07:18:17 2016 Tags:
Anna with new 5 gallon EZ Miser

Our local feed store has agreed to sell a 5 gallon version of our EZ Miser.

It's the one in Copper Creek between Castlewood and Abingdon.

Posted Fri Jul 8 15:16:10 2016 Tags:
Goat in garden

HugelkulturI'm thrilled to announce that my newest paperback is now live on Amazon!

The Ultimate Guide to Soil isn't technically slated to be published for another week or so. But if you preordered, your copy should be in your hands soon.

My official author copies are still in transit (so signed thank-you books for contributors haven't gone out yet). But I splurged and bought a copy on Amazon to show off (with Punkin's help, of course).

Goat eating onions

The Ultimate Guide to Soil is a hefty book, full of all of the tidbits I've learned over the last decade about improving and maintaining Gardening mistakessoil in a no-till garden. There are sections on soil testing, no-till management, and remineralization, plus an encyclopedic overview of organic soil amendments including everything from manure and straw to bokashi bins, black soldier fly compost, and humanure.

Basically, if we've tried it, it's in this book. And you know I like to try everything.

Ultimate Guide to Soil

Back coverI geared the book toward both beginners and advanced gardeners alike, including highlights of my own garden's growing pains so you won't have to repeat those mistakes. I also included my successes of course, along with tips for turning problematic dirt into prime garden soil. Then I rounded it all out with the experiences of other gardeners and a hefty helping of library research.

Interested? The paperback is live on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and should be hitting bookstores and libraries soon. (If you don't see it locally, be sure to request that your favorite establishment get a copy in stock.)

If you prefer ebook format, please be aware that this is the same book I've been publishing in quarters over the course of 2016, so don't feel you have to buy it again. You can save a few bucks by buying the bundled version on Amazon, though, and you can also download a free ebook copy on Amazon when you order a copy of the print book. The bundle will be available on other platforms in a week or so as well once it's been reformatted for epub.

I hope you enjoy The Ultimate Guide to Soil and will consider telling your friends, sharing the link on social media, or perhaps writing a review. Thank you so much for your support --- you are why I write.

Posted Sat Jul 9 07:21:55 2016 Tags:
spliced wire

This post is to remind me not to dig up thistle plants near the waterline power.

Posted Sat Jul 9 16:08:27 2016 Tags:
Red summer apple

This post is a compilation of tidbits from the garden week, none of which is big enough to really turn into its own post. I hope the result isn't too disjointed for you.

I'll start by saying that we got to taste our first homegrown William's Pride apple on Saturday. It was sweet and delicious! I'd thought this grafted limb was King David, actually, but the strange ripening date prompted me to look back at my notes and figure out that my memory was way off. Good to know since I think we'll want to expand the planting in the future.

Lodged corn

Second tidbit --- a storm lodged some of our biggest corn. I was a little concerned about having put off thinning the field corn until the plants were nearly as tall as me, and it turns out my gut reaction was right. The photo above shows sweet corn thinned earlier that only barely lodged, while almost half of the field corn blew down. The lodged plants will likely survive, but I'll try to do a better job thinning earlier in the plants' lives anyway.

New asparagus frond

On a more positive note, our asparagus is thriving now that the partially composted goat manure topdressed in June has had time to soak into the ground. This is a big relief since last year's uncomposted goat manure burned new asparagus fronds and resulted in a smaller crop this spring. Looks like asparagus 2017 will be bountiful.

Baby brussels sprout

Under the row covers, brussels sprouts are growing well. It's always nice to have a set-it-and-forget-it portion of the garden in the midst of the summer flurry of activity. Without having to worry about cabbage worms, the fall crucifers definitely fit the bill. I'll probably repeat the endeavor with the broccoli seedlings that will be outgrowing their flat soon.


And that's all of the news here. I hope your garden is thriving and beginning to feed you bushels of produce!

Posted Sun Jul 10 06:41:30 2016 Tags:
testing the new weed dragon

We tested our first propane weed burner today.

The Weed Dragon is easy to set up and ignite.

Stay tuned for more detailed updates in the near future.

Posted Sun Jul 10 17:03:24 2016 Tags:
Goats in the woods

Some days, my biggest conundrum is --- where shall the goats and I go for our free-range adventure? The floodplain is usually a winner in the summer, but several inches of rain means it's currently too soggy for caprine feet. Garden edges fill bellies fast but mean I have to stay alert since Aurora has recently lost her unleashed nibbling privileges.

Goat hill

Following goats"How about up on the hill?" I asked Artemesia.

"Less food means more time grazing," she countered.

"Okay," I agreed. And off we went.


Summer canopyPunkin stays home in his weaning paddock, so we're back down to a herd of two --- the perfect size for me. And our current girls are so sweet and malleable I usually don't even have to ask them to follow.

Instead, I busy myself stroking ourly newly affectionate doeling and brushing deer flies off Artemesia's forehead. A perfect morning to be in the woods.

Posted Mon Jul 11 06:39:42 2016 Tags:
potato onion harvest

We harvested our potato onions today.

The yield was very low.

This will be the last year we plant them so we can make room for something more productive that won't feel like a waste of a raised bed.

Posted Mon Jul 11 16:36:06 2016 Tags:
Summer garden

Some days, the summer feels so fleeting.

Ripe sweet corn

It's time to harvest the first sweet corn...

Bare garden bed

...and plant the last sweet corn.

Five months from from frost to frost seems like an eternity in May and a heart beat in October. I'd better pause now and soak up the sun.

Posted Tue Jul 12 06:40:38 2016 Tags:
Masai bean harvest

We've been eating Masai beans for about a week but today is the first big harvest where we'll blanche and freeze some for the Winter.

Posted Tue Jul 12 15:09:24 2016 Tags:
Giving a goat a shot

Punkin got his followup CD&T injection this week, which means he's now ready to become the stud at a nearby friend's farm. We're Goat feederjust waiting on that friend to recover from eye surgery so he can take on the handful that is our 11.5-week old buckling.

(No, Punkin, the mineral feeders were not intended to be eaten out of in that manner.)

Punkin is the first goat I've ever weaned, and after watching him I'd say that eight weeks old probably is too young to go off milk for most goats. Our buckling came out of his weaning at a perfect, svelte 3.0 on the body-condition chart...but that's only because he began with rolls of fat around his shoulders and because I let him nurse at slowly lengthening intervals for the first two weeks. A skinnier goat or the recipient of a cold-turkey weaning would have had a much harder time making the transition to grass.


In the meantime, Punkin has gotten used to being in a neighboring pasture rather than being a true member of the herd, and he seems even more affectionate toward humans as a result of his ostracism from goat-kind. In fact, he's the most dog-like goat I've ever met. He definitely inherited all of Artemesia's sweetness and added a level of charm all his own.

In other words --- Punkin's new owner had better pick him up soon before Mark and I fall any further in love!

Posted Wed Jul 13 07:10:52 2016 Tags:
Some of the corn was impacted by high winds.

We had a small storm last week that blew some of the sweet corn over.

Yesterday was our first dinner with fresh sweet corn.

Posted Wed Jul 13 13:58:29 2016 Tags:
Holey cardboard

After years of kill mulching, I've become a bit of a cardboard connoisseur. Corrugated vastly trumps uncorrugated. Smaller flaps mean more ground coverage than larger flaps. And produce boxes with holes in the middle? I used to think those were a pain in the butt...until now.

It occurred to me as I prepared to plant some summer squash in the site of last year's compost pile that weeds were going to pop up like mad in the newly bared ground. So I laid down a kill mulch first, using a holey box as my central row. Then I poked a single squash seed into the soil beneath each hole.

A month later, the squash are thriving and I've finally decided I love those holey produce boxes. What part of the waste stream will I find a perfect use for next, I wonder?

Posted Thu Jul 14 06:49:49 2016 Tags:
mark Honey!
Honey harvest!

We had a major honey harvest today.

The last time we harvested this much honey was 6 years ago.

Posted Thu Jul 14 14:59:44 2016 Tags:
Honey jars

Hive conversion successAs Mark mentioned yesterday, we finally harvested honey for the first time in six years. The long-time reader might assume that means my conversion back to Langstroth hives while keeping my chemical-free strain of bees going was just what the doctor ordered. And you wouldn't necessarily be wrong...but you wouldn't necessarily be right either.

The jury's still out on which hive system makes more honey because I harvested about the same amount from both the primarily Langstroth hive and from the Warre hive. In both cases, the honey overload is due to an excellent nectar season that culminated in our basswood blooming fully for the first time in nearly a decade. Lots of nectar makes lots of honey, regardless of the type of hive.

Bee brood

So how much honey did I take? It's complicated. Initially, I planned to harvest the one remaining Warre box on top of our converted hive since I'd found lots of brood and eggs lower down on Langstroth frames and knew the queen had vacated the attic. But once I got that box home and started pulling out the frames, I discovered that there was still brood at the bottom. So I harvested three full frames of honey and went to put the Warre box back with its brood intact.

But I really wanted to call that conversion complete, so I put the box back on the other hive instead of the one I originally took it from. And while I was in there, I discovered that the Warre hive had a very full box of capped honey as well as at least two other quite heavy boxes. So I snagged the former rather than towering their living quarters over my head.

Low-tech honey extraction

To cut a long story short, I think I ended up harvesting about 1.3 Warre boxes in the end. Rather than going high-tech, I simply squeezed each frame into a strainer and ended up with about 2.5 gallons of honey. A very sweet reward after years of trial and error!

Posted Fri Jul 15 07:23:46 2016 Tags:
Anna planting new broccoli starts for the Fall garden.

Planting broccoli starts now should give us several weeks of broccoli in the Fall.

Posted Fri Jul 15 14:40:28 2016 Tags:

Moving garden bedsI'm just about done with my quest to consolidate all of the best soil into the sunniest part of the garden.

On the plus side, my gardening workload has decreased because I get more produce from a smaller space.

On the minus side, I haven't had room to plant a single bed of buckwheat all summer. (Fall cover crops will still go in as planned.)

Now the big question --- what to do with the shady spaces left behind? Next time dry floodplains and working four-wheelers align, I'm hoping to drag in another round of livestock panels to build more goat pastures.

Because having Artemesia standing inches away from my sweet corn watching me weed is a good idea...right?

Posted Sat Jul 16 06:59:57 2016 Tags:
plant scaper update

The Plant-Scaper trellis support we installed a few weeks ago is looking good on these cucumber plants.

We could attach more segments if we wanted to go higher.

Posted Sat Jul 16 15:28:26 2016 Tags:
Crazy butternut patch

I went out to try to take a photo of our butternut patch with a human in it for scale, but ended up getting this odd selfie instead. So I've inset another photo of most of the patch to give you an idea of the impressive coverage of those squash vines just a couple of months after planting.

Red tomatoes

Storage onionElsewhere in the garden, it's starting to turn into preserving season. We're putting away our usual soups as well as lots of frozen green beans and okra since the latter turned out to be a crowd pleasure this winter. It looks like we'll be harvesting our onions this week too. It's definitely time to make like ants if we want to eat well during the cold season ahead!

Posted Sun Jul 17 06:46:11 2016 Tags:
Anna carrying firewood with Andy in background

We decided to do a little work on Sunday morning today to take advantage of the early shade and our friend Andy's schedule.

Posted Sun Jul 17 18:47:44 2016 Tags:
Sleek goats

Alert goatsThere's a new darling doeling in town....

Back in the winter when I named Aurora before she hatched, I asked Mark if he thought our hypothetical doeling would be as sweet as her mother. "Sweeter," he said promptly. "Impossible!" I replied.

But motherhood is tough on everyone, and I'm forced to admit the transition to a new life stage has taken a tiny bit of shine off Artemesia's halo. She's still the world's greatest milk goat. She lets me milk her without locking her head in the stanchion, goes wherever I ask without a leash, and generally acts like the perfect herd animal.

Goat familyOn the other hand, making 6 cups of milk per day takes a lot of calories. So Artemesia doesn't have as much time to caper as she used to. Instead, she generally needs to hunker down and eat.

Enter doeling 2.0....

At three months old, Aurora is just a little younger than Artemesia was when we brought her home. And the sweetness of a teenibopper goat is very much in evidence. Sunday, our darling doeling snuggled up to me as I read in the woods and let me stroke her soft fur for quite a long time. And I realized --- even though this sounds like heresy --- that Mark might be right. Aurora might be even sweeter than her mother.

Posted Mon Jul 18 07:10:01 2016 Tags:
Deer damage to our gate.

Lucy woke us up yesterday morning barking like crazy.

She was chasing a deer out of the garden and right through the front gate.

We needed a better gate there anyway.

Posted Mon Jul 18 14:10:03 2016 Tags:
Basket cat

Question: Am I the only one who turns into a bit of a basket case at the height of the summer gardening and preserving season?

Answer: No, Huckleberry's quite willing to join in the fun!

Posted Tue Jul 19 07:07:15 2016 Tags:
Punkin meets his new owner.

Punkin is now with his new herd where he'll be the new stud goat.

It was a little sad to see him go, but in the end we're glad he found such a good home and a new purpose in life.

Posted Tue Jul 19 14:57:31 2016 Tags:

Ice cream makerThis summer has been averaging 1 to 3 degrees hotter than previous summers on our farm. That doesn't sound like much...until you realize that we spend a lot of time working outside and I'm still stubbornly avoiding air conditioning. (Mark has AC in his man cave.)

Long term, we're pondering all kinds of passive-cooling systems. Short term, the solution was obvious --- an ice-cream maker!

This little machine makes a great long as you put in a little TLC during the freezing process. Unfortunately, the procedure isn't set-it-and-forget-it. Instead, it's necessary to run a firm spatula around the inside every three to four minutes during the course of the freeze cycle.

Without that step, you end up with ice cream stuck so hard to the nonstick surface that you can't pry it loose and end up having to slowly but surely scoop it into your mouth as it thaws. Oh, the hardship! No, Mark, that's not what I'm doing while you're cooling off in your man cave. Really....

Churning ice cream

Ahem, anyway. In case you're interested in following suit, I'm still using a slightly modified version of this recipe. Mark got sick of mint and I realized I could downgrade the chocolate chips a bit (although not much or the consistency goes off). The final recipe for use in a two-quart ice-cream maker includes:

  • 6 cups rich goat milk (divided)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Soft-serve ice cream

See the previously linked post for cooking instructions and be sure to cool overnight before tossing in the ice-cream maker. The end result is soft-serve consisetency, so Mark and I like to ladle the contents into eight individual-serving containers and put them back in the freezer for 12 hours before eating. Enjoy!

Posted Wed Jul 20 07:19:02 2016 Tags:
New improved metal gate.

Our new metal gate was just as easy to install as the first one.

The hinges let it swing both ways and the powder coating should last for a long time.

Posted Wed Jul 20 15:16:55 2016 Tags:
Goats grazing hedge

Goat pulling against its leashNow that Punkin has moved on to his new home, I'm finally able to get back to tethering our herd in the morning while I garden. Artemesia was thrilled at the opportunity, but our little doeling wasn't so sure about the idea of collars and leashes.

She had a small fit, pouted for a while, then decided mimicking her mother was probably a better way to utilize her time. I figure by the end of the week, Aurora will be just as good at being tethered as Artemesia is.

Posted Thu Jul 21 05:58:12 2016 Tags:
cucumber vines

Soon we'll have a lot of extra cucumbers.

We don't like pickles so they mainly get used as a side salad.

Posted Thu Jul 21 16:53:49 2016 Tags:

Soil Amendments for the Organic GardenI'm excited to announce that the final book in my Ultimate Guide to Soil series is now available for sale!

This one is long and in-depth but very heavy on the pictures so hopefully still easy to read. In addition to rundowns on more conventional garden amendments, I've summed up our experiences with bokashi, black soldier flies, humanure, biochar, and much more.

Here are the buy links in case you want to give it a try:

What early reviewers had to say:

"Thanks to her Ultimate Guide to Soil series, I am enjoying robust plant growth and harvesting gorgeous vegetables and herbs from my garden." --- M

"I know more about composting and soil amendments now than I did before reading this - and I've been composting for 30 years, so I thought I knew it all!" --- Colin B. McGee

Thank you in advance for any support, from buying a copy to telling a friend to leaving a review. You are why I write.

Posted Fri Jul 22 06:51:26 2016 Tags:
chicago hardy fig

Our Chicago Hardy Fig is finally bouncing back from 2 Winters ago.

The highest point is just over 6 feet.

Posted Fri Jul 22 15:10:56 2016 Tags:
Old-fashioned thresher

Belts and gearsKayla and I took in the antique tractor show at Fairview in Abingdon Friday. It was another perfect girl's day out, with an extremely well-behaved baby, fascinating old implements (like this thresher --- look at all those belts!), and quite a bit of historical education as a bonus.

Growing flax

OuthouseThe interpretive signs were top-notch, full of information I'd never considered. For example, did you know that the crescent moon traditionally shown on an outhouse was meant to designate the lady's room? Way back when the average American couldn't read, stars were for guys and moons for girls...but men's outhouses tended to get run down and didn't last. Thus the crescent-moon-marked outhouses dominating the colonial landscape.

And speaking of outhouse traditions, hollyhocks were usually planted around the outhouse as a way to draw the attention without forcing a lady to request directions to the necessary. Lamb's ears with their silvery ears did the same job at night (while also providing backup toilet paper).

Oh, and the other picture in this section is flax. I was proud of myself for guessing its identity...and Kayla was proud of herself for capturing the plant matter before it made it into baby D.'s gaping mouth.

Organic dyes

Plant dyesIn the air-conditioned comfort of the interpretive log house, we took in several beautiful displays pertaining to history and crafts. On the history front, I was intrigued to learn that I-81 (the big highway that runs through our region) began as a buffalo trail but soon became a major thoroughfare between Philadelphia and the Frontier.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the so-called Great Philadelphia Road was used for wagon trains of settlers (many from Europe) moving to new land and also for people from our region driving their sheep, pigs, and cattle to market in the City of Brotherly Love. Can  you imagine making that 500-mile trek at the tail end of a herd of swine?

Percheron horse

Pig overallsThe upshot? Best girl's day out yet! Think we can top this in August, Kayla?

Posted Sat Jul 23 07:24:32 2016 Tags:

Solarization is still a major time saver for us.

Sometimes the plants end up winning when the plastic is on its last leg.

Posted Sat Jul 23 14:41:06 2016 Tags:
Onion harvest

I usually wait to harvest our onions until the leaves have dried down. But the summer abruptly turned wet and I began noticing a few signs of rot. Time to get our precious bulbs out of the ground before they go bad!

I harvested perhaps three-quarters of the onions Tuesday, filling up three bushel baskets and then transferring the contents over onto one of our curing racks. Maybe I actually planted too many this year?

Posted Sun Jul 24 07:09:58 2016 Tags:
Summer collage

Despite the current bone-dry conditions, mushrooms are popping up all over the woods.


There's a certain zen wonder in not being able to identify most of them but still enjoying their beautiful shapes and colors.

Goat eating fallen leaves

Meanwhile, the goats are much more interested in the first golden tulip-tree leaves filtering to the ground. To each her own!

Posted Mon Jul 25 06:43:21 2016 Tags:
lucy going through pet door.

Of course our new gate would not be complete without a Lucy access door.

Posted Mon Jul 25 15:40:09 2016 Tags:

I was a bit dubious of our vet's diagnosis that Aurora was merely suffering from internal parasites. After all, would she be fine one day and then nearly comatose the next in that case? But now I'm thinking he was right. Because ever since being flushed out with a vast array of pharmaceuticals, our doeling has been growing faster and plumper every day.

Walking goats

Her mama, on the other hand, is starting to drop below the perfect 3.0 body-condition score. That's perfectly normal with heavy milkers, but I'm still going to try to plump her up with some extracurricular grazing in hopes we can keep her fat enough to Full belly clubmilk through the winter.

It's a long shot for a first freshener to milk through, but it sure would be nice not to have to worry about the hassle of breeding and kidding this fall and next spring. August and early September will be the deciding time because I'd like to breed around Halloween if we're going to have to dry Artemesia off and give her time to recover before turning her back into a milk jug once again.

Posted Tue Jul 26 07:11:31 2016 Tags:
Row cover fabric

Brussels sprouts are growing fast under their row covers.

In about a month, we'll top the plants so they start producing baby cabbages for winter meals.
Posted Tue Jul 26 16:19:00 2016 Tags:
Tree mulch

Last year, we installed landscape fabric beneath most of our oldest row of high-density apples. The idea was to cut weeding work...but I'm afraid the plastic mulch also appears to be cutting vitality.

Apple branches

It's hard to be sure whether the fabric is at fault because I have several different apple varieties growing in this area and there's some fireblight in the mix. But the apples that were mulched with straw are thriving while those amid the landscape fabric have lost most of their leaves.

Leafless branchesI suspect water is the culprit --- or lack thereof. Summer rains tend to fall hard and fast in our area, meaning that a lot of that liquid likely runs off the landscape fabric despite the small holes meant to allow rain to soak through. In contrast, straw grabs and holds the liquid, topping up the trees' reserves slowly over the course of several days.

I've pulled back the fabric so I can topdress with manure, and I'll probably end up replacing it with a biodegradable weed barrier of cardboard coated with straw. If we had an irrigation system that hit these trees, the plastic might not be a bad idea. But, for now, I'm going to stick with what works.

Posted Wed Jul 27 07:11:39 2016 Tags:
Cleaning a fan

Today was fan cleaning day.

Simply snap off the fan guard and loosen the nut on the front to disassemble for easy cleaning.

Just remember --- on fans, righty loosy, lefty tighty.
Posted Wed Jul 27 14:09:00 2016 Tags:
Bud grafting

Grafted plumStone fruits (peaches, plums, etc.) can be dormant-season grafted just like apples. For example, the baby tree to the right is an Imperial Epineuse that I whip grafted onto purchased rootstock in early April 2015. Halfway through its second season, the young plant is thriving.

On the other hand, the other four plums that I grafted at the same time perished. So I decided to earmark my homegrown plum rootstock for a more appropriate type of stone-fruit grafting --- budding.

Less than two months after setting out the stooled rootstocks, the plants had expanded into a thicket of growth. So I whittled each one down to a single large stem, cut T-shaped incisions in the developing bark, then peeled it back enough to slide bud shields from a named variety into the hole. Since I'm just beginning to feel my way through bud grafting, I inserted two buds into each of the nine rootstocks. With even a 10% success rate, I should end up with two new plum trees --- fingers crossed!

Posted Thu Jul 28 07:55:59 2016 Tags:
Circus goat

Someone's proud of herself for learning to jump on top of a slippery trashcan lid at the limit of her tether.

Do you think she's ready to join the circus?

Posted Thu Jul 28 16:07:52 2016 Tags:
Baby raccoons

July has been an extraordinary month for local wildlife. Within walking distance of our core homestead, we've seen:

  • A juvenile black bear near our neighbor's mailbox
  • A black coyote on top of a round haybale that jumped down to join its more normally colored partner
  • Masses of turkeys, including a mother with twelve offspring that seemed to whittle down to about seven over the course of three weeks...unless that was a different family
  • These two baby raccoons by the same neighbor's mailbox
  • And --- the kicker --- massive bear tracks near where we park our vehicles that were longer than my own barefoot tracks

What surprises will August bring?

Posted Fri Jul 29 06:24:40 2016 Tags:
Developing sunflowers

Cardinals usually get the first ripe sunflower seeds.

Soon we'll harvest mature heads for winter goat fodder.
Posted Fri Jul 29 16:25:33 2016 Tags:
Seedless grapes

When I first started researching seedless grapes, the consensus appeared to be that they were very difficult to grow without spraying. "Whatever," I thought naively. "My grapes will do fine."

The Mars Seedless on the left shows what generally happens with that kind of attitude. Fungi began attacking the young grapes over a month ago, and at first I plucked off the affected fruits whenever I noticed damage to prevent the disease from spreading. Eventually, though, I threw up my hands and let nature take its course. And, in exchange, nature provided one ripe grape. The lone fruit was tasty...but not a very good harvest from two vines that have spent nearly five years in the ground.

In stark contrast, Reliance is continuing to live up to its name. I started the vine on the right from a cutting less than three years ago. It's already fruiting, and after picking off only one or two blighted grapes, the clusters are now pristine. One was already ripe enough to eat and it definitely hit the spot!

Guess which variety is going to replace the troublesome Mars Seedless this winter?

Posted Sat Jul 30 07:25:34 2016 Tags:

Rain barrel gutter diverter

Anna found this gutter diverter in action at Fairview last week.

Assuming the diverter is at the same elevation as the top of the rain barrel, it should do away with the need for an overflow pipe.
Posted Sat Jul 30 14:26:46 2016 Tags:

I started a variety of perennial herbs from seed last year and my only failure was lovage. Luckily Mom had better luck with the seedling I passed on when I ran out of room in my own garden.

She brought me a sprig of the mature herb to try out this past week, and I was surprised to find how very celery-like the flavor was. I'd been assuming lovage would taste more like parsley. Instead, the milder flavor meant I should have added more to my tuna-patty test case.

Overally, a tasty treat. I'll definitely have to get more serious about adding this perennial herb to our garden!

Posted Sun Jul 31 05:58:21 2016 Tags:
Faerie hybrid watermelon

We had our first Faerie Hybrid watermelon today.

The size was just right for two people.

It was about half as sweet as you usually expect for a watermelon.

Posted Sun Jul 31 15:35:30 2016 Tags:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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